Comprehensive recycling concept for plastics is needed
Plastics have excellent material properties. They are easy to handle, have many uses, can be readily combined with other materials, and are inexpensive to manufacture. As a result, plastics are used in a wide range of products. Once these plastic products reach the end of their lives, they are often thermally recycled although in many parts of the world they end up as landfill. In Germany today, only 30-40% of all plastic waste is recycled. One reason for this is ever more plastics being used in laminated materials and up until now the lack of a suitable laminate recycling process. At the same time, public and legislative pressure is increasing on the relevant players to design products and develop recycling concepts that guarantee high plastic recycling quotas. With the Plastic Strategy for Europe and the new German Packaging Act, the time appears right for a circular economy in the plastics sector.
Multilayer packaging must also be recyclable in the future
Several research projects are being undertaken by the Fraunhofer IVV to develop a customized, sustainable, and process-oriented approach for recycling thermoplastic multilayer materials. The objective is for plastics to retain their excellent material properties even after several life cycles. The projects focus on multilayer food packaging that often consists of several layers (PET, PE, PP, EVOH, PA, metalized layers). Up until now these materials have been sorted out of the collected plastic waste and thermally recycled in order to not jeopardize the recycling of mono-material plastics.
Solvent-based CreaSolv® process for effective recycling of laminated plastic materials
The Fraunhofer IVV has developed and patented the solvent-based CreaSolv® recycling process. After recycling laminated plastic materials using this process, the recovered polymers retain their chemical and mechanical properties. The CreaSolv® process uses selective solvents for polymer-specific extraction of thermoplastic laminate components. In contrast to chemical recycling methods, which produce monomers, the CreaSolv® process keeps the polymer structures and their specific properties. A consequence of this is that the recovered plastic recyclates can be used to make high-quality products and can thus substitute virgin plastics. This is important for a circular economy because only high quality post-consumer plastic recyclates will guarantee true circular usage of these materials.